17 September, 2006

Toast and Jam

When I found out I had celiac disease, the one thing I regretted most was toast and jam.

I have always loved toast and jam. When I was about thirteen, I think, I discovered that I could get past my mother's requirement that the things I ate must have some sort of nutritional content other than carbohydrates (protein, vitamins, that sort of annoying thing) by eating toasted open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, meaning two toasted pieces of bread, one with peanut butter and one with jam. I'd eat the peanut butter slice first, as quickly as was reasonably possible, and then savour the slice with jam on it.

As soon as I moved into a house of (more or less) my own in college, I started eating toast and jam pretty much every day. The day I realized that there really was something wrong with me, that normal 18-year-old people are hungry for more than one meal a day and don't need naps every afternoon, I'd been living on just toast and jam and milk for a about a week. So even though it doesn't bother me very much, in the grand scheme of things, I miss toast and jam. Here in France I've discovered that a rice cracker with a layer of strawberry jam and then a layer of goat cheese serves much the same purpose, but it's still not the same thing.

I write this eating a slice of toast with butter and strawberry jam.

It is the most wonderful thing. I thought I would never eat a real slice of toast and jam again, and here I sit, eating toasted gluten-free bread made special for me by the chef of a one-star Michelin restaurant.

I went to visit Mary and Travis in Provence again this weekend. When I emailed them the time of my train in, they told me that they had a surprise for me (and that of course it involved food). So Saturday evening we left the house around 7.15 and drove for a couple kilometers to a restaurant that they'd eaten lunch at a few days before. It's a one-star Michelin restaurant that's run by the longest-serving female chef in France, Reine Sammut. The one-star rating is a little misleading, I think, in terms of the quality of the food. Mary, who certainly knows more about these things than I do, says that it's only got one star because it's not quite stuffy enough for the Michelin people, because its cooking is too traditionally Provençal and not "innovative" enough, and because the chef's a woman. Regardless of the number of stars it's got, it's probably the best restaurant I've ever eaten in.

I don't know the story, exactly, but I think that when Mary told the waiter about how she had celiac disease and what she could and couldn't eat, somebody said, "Oh yes! Reine's daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease recently! We know all about that!"

So Mary and Travis arranged for us all to have dinner there last night, and Reine's daughter was there, so I got to meet everyone, and they're all wonderful people, and the dinner was amazing.

When we got out first course, they brought bread for Travis. He ate some of it with the olive oil (they make it themselves), which was really good, and which Mary and I dipped our fingers into, because of course we didn't have any bread to eat with it. And then they brought a separate thing of bread for Mary and me. And we looked at each other, and each took a piece, and tried it, and it was wonderful. We had bread to dip into olive oil, and to eat with goat cheese, and to mop up the last bit of sauce on our plates.

At the end of the meal, we talked to Reine for a while. We told her how much we'd enjoyed the meal, especially the bread, which she'd made special, and when we were about to leave we asked if maybe there was a little left over that we could take with us. There was.

That is the story of my first piece of toast and jam in half a year. Reine's writing a gluten-free cookbook, so I'm going to see if I can get the recipe she uses for the bread. I'm sure that if I make it it won't turn out nearly as good as hers, but perhaps it'll still be good enough for toast and jam.

And I've still got two slices of bread left...


Anonymous -Claire said...

The world just rocks sometimes, huh? =)

12:54 PM  
Anonymous boo said...


8:38 PM  

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